some music talk


This morning I spent several minutes clarifying some basic musical harmonic analysis that Kerala Snyder threw out in passing in her bio of Buxtehude. After a bit, I decided that she had mistakenly identified a chord function. (For trained musicians,  she called a dominant seventh chord with a flat fifth a Neapolitan sixth…. ) It is possible that her training taught her something that I don’t know about this chord. But my basic understanding of classical harmony is pretty solid and tells me that she misidentified a chord.

We had an interesting discussion in piano trio rehearsal yesterday. The Mozart we are scheduled to play a week from Sunday went very well. The other players were very complimentary of my playing. The piano has an important role in these Mozart piano trios, often difficult passages, if not the most difficult passages. I have been practicing hard on this trio.


Dawn the cellist said something like, “Steve, I know you don’t consider yourself a classical pianist, but sometimes your playing is quite good.”

I tried to clarify that while academics may find my odd blend of musicianship not quite orthodox that my disparaging comments reflect more how I think I am perceived by many trained musicians. My own confidence in myself and the way I do music is pretty strong.

I pointed out how I have been working on a Ligeti piano etude that requires a stretch my 63 year old fingers could not even do when I was a young man. I came to the conclusion that I could still perform this etude in an interesting musical way that did  not quite accomplish what Ligeti’s notation indicates (the stretch should be done with no pedal, I added a bit of pedal and fingered it differently).

Dawn then remarked that she had played with the Grand Rapids Symphony for 39 years. For 38 of those years she didn’t feel as though she were a professional musician due to her lack of music degree and training.


Amy immediately began to point out how professional Dawn is in her musical life (which is quite true). Then Dawn said that in her last year of playing she understood that she had something to offer musically and was a professional musician.

I think that’s cool. That despite the bruising most of us get in the musical world, Dawn was able finally to see herself and her abilities clearly.

This is the most crystal-clear image of space ever taken – Quartz

I liked this picture so much I made it my desktop background on my laptop.



Unlocking Scrolls Preserved in Eruption of Vesuvius, Using X-Ray Beams –

This is exciting to me. I know we have lost many Greek and Latin plays and works. Wouldn’t it be cool to finally read some of them?

The Sun Appears to Stop Printing Topless Pictures –

Eileen did not know about this practice. I mentioned it to her and that though I do like naked women it was probably a good thing to discontinue. Unfortunately, the next day they resumed putting topless women on their famous Page 3. The whole thing feels like a publicity stunt that worked.

A Cheeseburger, a Suburban Traffic Stop and a Ticket for Eating While Driving 

Really? A ticket for eating a hamburger while driving?

Smartphones Don’t Make Us Dumb –

Due to the proliferation of possibilities, it’s not the screens that diminish our attention span so much as the ease with which we can find something else when we get bored or impatient with what is before us. I am guilty as charged.

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